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The other side of town

Crosstown Concerts director Conal Dodds details the company’s journey through the pandemic and the creation of a new livestreaming operation

19 Feb 2021

Conal Dodds, Crosstown Concerts

It’s been very exciting to work with broadcast platform Stabal to create a new outlet for artists. Bellowhead hadn’t played live for four years, so we expected a good level of interest. To gross £150k+ [€170k] for a folk band on our first live broadcast was brilliant for everyone involved.

We had tried socially distanced shows, but only three of the 20 we put on sale actually happened because of the tier systems being introduced in the UK – Frank Turner, for example, was set up with ten day’s notice and cancelled three days out. It was all very frustrating, but clearly public health has to come first.

We could see the potential hybrid of live and broadcast, and a lot of research followed. This collaboration between Stabal and Crosstown Concerts solves all of the issues artists have encountered broadcasting concerts, as we can handle all the aspects required between us.

We cover all the costs, and handle all marketing, ticketing, rights and publishing clearances

We cover all the costs, and handle all marketing, ticketing, rights and publishing clearances, with audiovisual recording produced to a world-class standard.

We decided from the outset not to offer ‘live’ live streams, having seen so many beset with technical problems and not really being a great product. In reality, our competitors are anything on TV/Netflix/YouTube/sports, because people are watching it at home – so our shows need to really stand out.

We record an artist over the course of a day, with a four-or five-camera shoot. The band plays live together, with audio feeds allowing post-editing and post-production. That makes the artist relax. Stabal gives the artists approval of the final cut and we can concentrate on creating the very best audio and video experience for viewers.

It also means they can film extra behind-the-scenes content, with interviews, additional songs, etc. Fans can purchase a straightforward ‘view on the day’ package of the live performance or a deluxe 30-day pass option, with extra songs, interviews and behind-the-scenes footage, adding true value for the fans.

We’re looking to go way beyond volume of tickets and accentuate the audience experience

In the case of Bellowhead, the performance was 75 minutes long and the bonus content was 64 minutes long. This proved very successful; the 30-day pass initiative has also allowed for sales after the initial broadcast date, with Bellowhead sales rising by 500 to 8,700 within the next two weeks. A gifting service also proved popular, allowing tickets to be bought as presents.

In keeping with the Crosstown Concerts ethos, we are looking to go way beyond volume of tickets and accentuate the audience experience, giving the bands a great experience and creative output to be proud of.

We currently have three [UK] studios, Burgess Barn in Epping Forest, Stabal Mansion (which is where we filmed Bellowhead), and Stabal’s Newbury Sound Stage. However, we are not limited to these sites – we can film the right act anywhere. Our first
Australian show will be confirmed soon.

It’s been quite a journey from this time last year, when we were starting to discuss the possible effects of the unheard-of coronavirus. We’re concert promoters; we bring in the bands and sell the tickets. With no shows, the last ten months have been terrible, for lots of people across the whole music industry, and like many others, we’ve struggled through.

We’ve had government help, furloughing people and with a bounce-back loan; without government support we would be in serious trouble. We were successful gaining a grant in the first round of the Culture Recovery Fund and have applied for round two.

There’s no sugarcoating how tough it’s been. But you adapt and find ways to keep the connections going

There’s no sugarcoating how tough it’s been. But you adapt and find ways to keep the connections going. Our aim is to have at least two live broadcast shows per week, targeting 100 shows in the coming year. It’s one of the few current ways artists can make money and show creativity.

We’re not tied to the bands we solely promote, so we’re going out to as many artists as we think we’ll have an audience for. We’re giving it our best shot. Since Christmas, new lockdown rules mean lots of uncertainty. Currently, we’re hoping we can get to a September return to full-capacity shows.

There will be a huge appetite for shows when they return, but we’re under no illusions, as there will be a lot of competition for peoples’ time and money from cinemas, sports, bars, etc., as well as other shows, and people will be struggling for money or unemployed. But we have to keep trying.

I think – outside of the NHS and fishermen – people work harder in the music industry than most others, so we are very resilient people. We will come through this!

 


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